Haiti’s post-earthquake rehabilitation begins with farmers

Priority is spring planting season as thousands flee, food prices rise

21 January 2010, Rome - FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said today that with the first stage of Haiti's rescue operation now underway the country and the aid effort should simultaneously move to the urgent support of food production, agricultural rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Haitian farmers must be given immediate support before the spring planting season begins in March, said Diouf. Haiti's consumption of cereals is estimated at around one million tonnes, of which about 63 percent are imported.

"The priority is to supply them with seeds, fertilisers, livestock feed and animal vaccines as well as agricultural tools," he said.

It is of vital importance to boost local production programmes of quality seeds, prepare fertilisers suitable for Haiti's various production zones and crops.  

Thousands flee

"It is urgent that we do this in the light of thousands of people fleeing the devastated capital Port-au-Prince for the rural areas and food prices rising," said Diouf.

"These people will need to be provided with the necessary means to survive and be provided with an income generating activity," Diouf added.

An estimated 53 percent of Haiti's population live in rural areas and 47 percent are urban.

All important spring planting season

The spring planting season, that lasts until May, accounts for 60 percent of Haiti's national agricultural production. With vital agricultural infrastructure such as storage facilities and irrigation canals damaged, Haitian farmers will need all the help they can get for the upcoming season.

FAO has $49 million worth of programmes to increase food production in Haiti made possible by a variety of donors including the European Union, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the World Bank, France, Canada, Spain, Austria, Brazil and Belgium.

The programmes include the multiplication and distribution of suitable high quality seeds and seedlings that poor farmers can rely on as well as the distribution of fertilisers and tools.

Government and FAO programmes in Haiti last year helped boost national agricultural production by 15 percent and brought down the number of malnourished Haitians.

Food prices rising

Food prices are rising in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere because of food and fuel shortages, damage to the supply chain, warehouses and the port, threatening survival of the poor all over Haiti.  

"The earthquake hit the west and the south of Haiti but the catastrophe is national," said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.

"To prevent this urban disaster becoming a rural tragedy as well it is crucial that we save the upcoming planting season."

FAO has 73 experts and employees on the ground in Haiti and this will increase over the coming days in order to support the Haitian government and the Ministry of Agriculture which suffered damage in the quake and lost personnel.

FAO is deploying experts for an assessment of the impact on the agricultural sector and damage to infrastructure in the earthquake zone.

Photo: ©AFP/Luis Acosta
Rural women selling in quake-hit Port-au-Prince